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Business or First Class Flight Deals from Canada – tripcentral.ca™

Tips on Getting Discounted Business Class Fares

The further in advance you book the better-Months ahead is better than weeks.  Only a few seats per flight are offered at a discount, and once booked (they are non-refundable), only the sky-high business fares designed for business travellers will be left.  There are fares that REQUIRE up to 50 days advance purchase!  Some are 28, 21, 14, or 7.  It varies, and the time of year and route make a huge difference.  Don’t try and game it – BOOK EARLY – PERIOD.  You WILL NOT see discounted fares at the last minute, other than in rare cases, and they will never be lower than the original advance fare.  There is NO reason whatsoever to delay booking.

You need a minimum stay.   Depending on the route, it might be the old “Saturday night stay required” rule .  On longer routes you can see a minimum stay of 9 days .  Airlines do this to create a total cost differential for business travellers.  Those travelling for business need hotels, meals, and time away from family.  The longer the flight, usually the longer the minimum stay.  If you see high fares booking in advance, try a longer duration.

Be flexible with your travel dates.  The worst thing you can do is commit to dates on other arrangements – a cruise, a tour, tight travel dates with a business meeting or conference, babysitting, or close to a wedding date or family event.  Once you have defined dates and then on the lookout for discounted business class, the stars must align to get a good fare.  When your dates are fixed, it’s luck of the draw if you will get a great fare.  Hold any cruise or tour on option  before confirming with payment, and then search for flights.  Consider adding a day or two to the front or back of your trip.  Consider flying into one city and out of another and exploring another city before returning.  Once you have stretched all your date flexibility and potential departure cities, then confirm other arrangements.  Most people confirm other arrangements under penalty first, and the flights can end up being very expensive.

Consider connections.  Direct flights will sell at a premium, simply because, they will be first preference for a true business traveller not paying the bill!  Booking an itinerary with a connecting flight and visit to a business class lounge is not unpleasant at all.  Sure, it makes the total journey longer, but it breaks up the trip, allows you to stretch, have a snack and some drinks, and use the WiFi – it’s not terrible.  The “underdog” airlines competing on routes with a non-stop competitor will often price connections more aggressively.  Anomalies where a Toronto-Paris-Rome business class ticket will be lower than both the separate Toronto-Paris business class (despite the extra flight and lounge)  and the Toronto Rome non-stop in business are not uncommon.  

In addition to the basic round trip search, try one-way segments, “open Jaws” (into one city and out of another), and try our “complex trips” by adding another city .  Let’s say you plan to visit London.  If you only priced Toronto London round trip, you might find it very expensive.  But adding another city like Amsterdam might lower the enter fare.  This is often the case for cities where international business travellers frequent (like London, Frankfurt, Dubai, Tokyo, etc).     

Business Class and First Class vary greatly by airline & aircraft!

Not all Business Class offerings are equal, therefore making it difficult to compare price wise between flight search results.  It’s why we’ve created this special page on tripcentral.ca to help those booking Business and First-Class flights.

Business Class, or First Class, is a separate cabin on a wide body aircraft that could contain separate pods, lie flat seats, angle flat seats, or just larger upright reclining seats.  Smaller, single aisle aircraft have a separate cabin with larger than economy reclining seats.  Clearly there is a huge difference between a lie flat seat in a separate pod on newer aircraft vs a larger than economy reclining seat – but these flight results will be mixed for comparison in our results.  You can filter results for wide body only for example to help narrow down these differences.

The length of the flight will mostly determine the meal and beverage options as well as the level of service offered onboard.  Short flights obviously are not comparable in meal and service options to those found on transcontinental and long-haul flights.  Even a wide body flight on a short trip will have a noticeable difference in meals and service level.

Standard in business class fares is priority check-in, priority security lines at major airports, lounge access at major airports and partner airline home airports, priority boarding, premium meal service, snacks, choice of wines and alcoholic drinks included, upgraded entertainment screens, and attentive service.

Business Class vs First Class – What’s the difference?

Often there is no difference (between Business & First), and it is purely a marketing distinction.  However, a few premium international airlines still maintain a difference between First Class and Business Class.  Some First-Class offerings on upscale airlines are configured as a bedroom.  We are not pretending to cater to this market segment – for our purposes, Business Class and First Class are in the same result set.  Particularly in North America, First Class is completely interchangeable with Business Class.  If you want to travel in a private cabin, you are probably not reading this page or worried about the cost!  For the record, we can do it – call us!

Which Airlines have the Best Business Class?

Airlines differ in size and target customer.  Large network airlines such as Air Canada, United, Delta, American and “flag carriers” from around the world (airlines of nationality like Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, LOT – airlines with country names and long-haul Asian airlines) often cater to business travellers as their core market.  These airlines will have a more substantial Business and or First Class offering than smaller airlines targeting more price sensitive leisure customers.  Airlines that service mostly long-haul international business routes, such as to Asia and the Middle East, often are renowned for the quality of Business and First-Class service.  These airlines often set the standard for quality of service that North American and European airlines must match.  When an airline has a larger domestic market to service, there are differences between the domestic and international business class offered.  This is especially noticeable for the US carriers where many routes are short and operated frequently. There is simply no comparison between the first class on a domestic US route and a long-haul international route for a US carrier.  

Air Canada Rouge – Is it Business Class or Not?

This is a special callout for the Canadian market and an important distinction between Air Canada “mainline” and Rouge.  Rouge was created to compete with leisure airlines like Air Transat, Sunwing and to some extent, short haul focused WestJet.  Rouge aircraft have tighter economy seating so Air Canada can hit a price point to compete with leisure focused carriers or “charter airlines” as they once may have been called.  

There is a “business class” cabin on Rouge that offers a business class seat reminiscent of the late 1990s and early 2000 look of Air Canada.  This was mostly the case because Rouge used the now retired 767s and older single aisle Airbus aircraft that were reconfigured to include many more economy seats.

You will find a note “Operated by Air Canada Rouge” in our flight results when you search for Business Class flights.  It’s important to read the aircraft description details.  In every other way, the service is business class – priority check in, priority security line, Maple Leaf Lounge access, priority boarding, choice of meals and wine, free alcoholic drinks & snacks, and attentive service.  Just that the seats are not comparable to the Air Canada mainline aircraft.

Club Class & More   

Some, like Air Transat, offer an excellent Club Class that can be compared to Premium or a bit better to a network airline.  WestJet offers Premium on their single aisle 737s - but have a TRUE Business Class on their 787 Dreamliner.  Meals are good, choice of wines and alcohol are included, and service is attentive.  You should do a comparative search for both Premium and Business class and read the aircraft descriptions carefully to make the most informed choice. 

Low-cost carriers  may have some sort of comfort seating offer, but it lacks the plushness and service – this is typically only about legroom – and even that is questionable.  Often the regular economy on low-cost carriers is so tight that the “upgrades” are barely comparable to a regular economy on a network airline.  It’s why we’ve created aircraft description pages for hyperlinked on the aircraft type for each airline.  It allows you to better compare the actual experience.

You will not see the upgraded seating on low-cost carriers with a business class search on tripcentral.ca.  Moreover, you will not see many, if any, low-cost carriers on tripcentral.ca.  They can be a good offer for direct flights from small airports, but by the time you add up all the extra charges for normally included things like a carry on in the overhead bin, checked bags, seat selection, and upgraded seats, it’s probably better to fly on a regular airline.  Low-cost carriers are also much more likely to cancel flights and their only obligation is to give a refund, without consideration of the sky-high alternative flight you’ll need to book at the last minute on another airline.  Never book a low-cost carrier to connect with a cruise, tour, or other date specific event.  It’s fine for visiting friends and family that can be easily postponed or changed.

Premium Vs Preferred or Comfort Economy Seating or Exit Row

If your primary motivation for considering business class is legroom and the business class fare is giving you sticker shock, do a Premium Economy search.  Here you’ll get an extra 5-7 inches of legroom that will make all the difference, potentially a bit wider seat and more recline.  True Premium Economy is a separate cabin on wide body aircraft with priority check in and priority 2 boarding.  Lounge passes are typically not included.

If there is no separate Premium Economy cabin, there can sometimes be a first few rows with more legroom.  This is offered for example on Delta Comfort, United Plus in North America, and KLM in “Comfort Class” internationally.  These results will come through the Premium search.

Last, if there is no viable Premium Economy option, we recommend you carefully read the aircraft descriptions to view the seat pitch in economy.  Generally, network airlines and WestJet offer acceptable economy seat pitch with an option to do advance seat selection for a fee.  This seat selection is done AFTER your ticket is issued on the airline website.  We’ll send you a link where you can do this after your ticket is issued.  The first few rows of economy and exit rows are often offered with a higher seat selection fee.  You need to do this right away after booking as they are often not available 24 hours prior on regular check in (and you will still pay the premium seat fee 24hrs prior).  Exit row is an excellent option for legroom, but you must be able and willing to perform emergency procedures.  You cannot have these seats if you are elderly, have a disability, or are incapable of performing emergency procedures.        

How Should You Compare Business Class Results?

Flight pricing defies logic on the best day.  It is based entirely on supply and demand.  Demand is always higher for direct flights, and airlines operating direct flights will demand a premium price versus a connection.

Aircraft type partially determines supply.  You may see a few wide-body flight choices mixed in with mostly single aisle choices for transcontinental routes.  You may even see wide-body aircraft at certain times of day on short routes like Toronto – Montreal, where aircraft are repositioning to and from Europe.  The number of seats sold on a specific flight can mean vastly different fares for Business Class.  Since there are a limited number of seats, if the flight is selling well, you may find the direct flight on a certain day much more expensive if the discounted business fares are already sold out.

Booking far in advance is critical and considering alternative dates may also make a big difference.

The tripcentral.ca result sort order will account for fair comparisons between direct and connecting flights, but you need to look at the itinerary detail for the aircraft type and description.  You can see this by choosing “Details” or clicking the Book button to verify the results.  The aircraft type is linked and contains a description of the aircraft for the operating airline.  This can get confusing when airlines “code share” between partners.  An Air Canada flight number can be operated for example, by any Star Alliance carrier including United, Lufthansa, Austria, LOT – just to name a few.  Obviously, the inflight experience is of the operating airline, and not the marketed airline.  Our search results account for this as well.

It's in the aircraft description that you will see the details of the business class offering; lie flat pods, angle flat seats (not quite flat), seat pitch and width.  Aircraft on routes with high frequency can be substituted or changed – especially when aircraft differ on the same route.  And of course, watch for offers that have economy segments mixed in – see below.   

Partial Business Itineraries with Economy Flights Mixed

Many of our competitor sites will offer mixed results of business and economy by default, and obviously, at first blush, these look cheaper.  Their price is deceiving however, as some (or all but almost all) of a multi-flight itinerary could be in regular economy but for one leg in business class.

For itineraries from the larger international airports in Canada (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal), we restrict the search so that the results must entirely be in Business class.  If you see no results at all, you can Update the search in Advanced Options to relax this constraint and allow results with economy flights.  This can be useful for example, to include itinerary options such as a commuter flight (with no business class offered) to New York or another major US hub, and a connection in Business thereafter to your destination.   All smaller gateways in Canada serviced by economy only will automatically allow a mix of economy and Business (or there would be no results altogether) but you will need to look more carefully at each flight segment to compare.  The filters on the flight search allow you to choose wide body or by airline to better zero in on options.

One Way Fares in Business?

It can also be worth quoting your flight itinerary in two one-way segments.  This does vary by route.  Many international routes only offer good business class fares as round-trip.  More and more markets, depending on competition from other airlines, are increasingly offering discounted advance purchase one-way fares.  It is possible, but highly unlikely that two one-way Business fares will be cheaper than a round trip for the same flights, however, if you find prices high, try searching as two one-ways.  You may find Business outbound and Premium Economy or regular Economy return a better option than entirely Business or entirely Premium Economy or entirely Economy.  Book Business on the more painful of the outbound or return – the overnight flight to Europe in Business and Premium flying back during the day, or in Premium or Comfort westbound in North America, and the overnight “red-eye” eastbound in Business.   

Aircraft are Subject to Change!

This is the dirty secret no one wants to talk about.  Especially on high frequency domestic routes, aircraft can be swapped as operational needs unfold – including weather and delays of incoming aircraft.  You need to “roll with the punches” if this happens.

It also means that “it matters where you book”.  tripcentral.ca will help you free of charge if the airline imposes a schedule change in advance.  This involuntary change will come with assistance from our team working here in Canada – not an understaffed rationed call centre somewhere abroad.  If you are subject to a schedule change in advance, we’ll spare you the hours on hold with the airline call centre – and you’ll never know what terrible service you would have had with some of the other online sites.  

If it happens on the day of travel, you will need to work with the gate staff, but know that the Air Passenger Protection Regulations have fixed values of compensation for such events.  The airlines will try to accommodate in these circumstances by offering alternatives and upgrades, but the scarcity of Business class and frequent fliers with priority status make excessive delays and aircraft changes more difficult.

It’s still very much worth booking it, but we want to point out that there is a small chance of an aircraft change, and we’ll do what we can to help with alternatives if it does occur, especially in advance, and for no extra fee when imposed by the airline.  Voluntary changes to your flight are subject to a rebooking or refund processing fee, but airline-imposed changes are not.  Most of our competitors charge for any change regardless of who initiates it.

Is Business Worth It?

Bigger and taller people place more value on seat pitch, seat size, and recline.  Everyone values premium service and comfort differently.  We can say that discounted Business Class fares are scarce, needs to be booked well in advance and is under marketed.  Full, undiscounted, unrestricted business fares are almost always available at very high fares but for some limited flights to Asia and the Middle East.  Many do not know until they pass through the upgraded cabins while boarding and have seat envy.  

When a cabin has 4 business seats across in 3 rows versus 6 seats across in 5 rows, the airline needs to price the ticket at least as high as the lost seat revenue.  Then add the extra service, meals, drinks, check in, overhead cabin space – but the decision on if it is worth it can only be compared to the best economy option and the best business class option.  Our role is to make that as easy as possible for you.

Remember to add up the FULL cost of your economy vs premium economy or preferred/comfort economy options for comparison.  Add the baggage fees and seat selection costs for the full cost, not just the basic price shown on the screen.  Then, take the difference in price and divide it by the total hours of the experience – from check-in, security, lounges prior and during connections, and of course, the total flying time.  Now you have an hourly rate of comfort to compare to an economy experience. 

Discounted Business Class fares are mostly non-refundable and allow changes for a fee.  On some routes, the fare may not be entirely non-refundable, and the higher priced fares for the same seat will allow for changes and refunds.  You can insure the cost of the ticket for covered risks, and a credit for the same passenger and value can be applied toward a new ticket.  There is a change fee to use this credit, a ticket re-issuance fee or refund processing fee from tripcentral.ca if the change is voluntary, and any fare difference from the old to the new fare will be required by the airline but NOT refunded if the new fare is lower.  Since discounted business class tickets cost much more than most economy fares, re-using it for another Business ticket is better than losing the unused fare value.

What about using Points for Business?

If you have many frequent flyer points, it is always worth a look.  We find that the best value for redeeming Aeroplan points or other frequent flyer points is on shorter haul North American routes where there is frequent service.  There are generally many more choices and point values can be much lower on selected flights.  When you look at the point cost of a discounted business ticket, by the time you value the points and pay “the taxes” and surcharges in cash, when you calculate how many points you need, it’s often not worth it.  Some people have an endless supply of points and a steady source of new ones – this will cause those people to value the points less than someone with a scarce number.

Always compare purchasing the best discounted business ticket first and do a sober calculation without emotion.  There are often other ways to redeem miles – for things with cash value, goods, and interesting lifestyle and entertainment options that you’d never spend the money on.  Consider how much you’ve spent to earn those miles, and if there might be more upcoming shorter haul trips that have better value.

The best way to book points for business class is to start with the premise of getting the best value for your points – “Where can I go for a deal?”.  Always do your searches as one-way flights so you can better see which component (outbound or return) has the best deal.  Consider using points for some but not all the trip and paying for a component out-of-pocket.  It takes time, but it is well worth it.  You are far better to be completely open to different places to get the best value.  Inevitably, if you book a cruise or land or commit to dates first, you will not get the best value for your points.

While we can do this for you, it involves giving us your username and password which is rather sensitive – you can do this and reset it after.  We do charge a higher fee for Aeroplan and other Points bookings if you want us to handle it for you.  The advantage is that we may be able to combine one-way segments or partial points redemptions in a more complicated itinerary.  We can also offer advice if the points value is worth the difference in price.  We do collect the service fee up front whether you decide to book or not – the research required is quite labour intensive for us.

What about Upgrading to Business at Check In?

It can happen that there are open seats, especially on these shorter haul domestic routes, or when a large aircraft was re-assigned at the last minute to another route due to weather, incoming delays, etc.  It’s always worth a look, but you cannot count on this.  Most Premium Economy fares are booked well in advance, and when there are one or two seats left, they often charge MORE for the upgrade than the original fare.  This is contextual pricing.  Scarcity and desire (lined up customers, frequent fliers with upgrade coupons or points) turn this into an auction not unlike the housing market these days.  

Bottom line – if you are booked in economy or premium, it’s always good to check the Upgrade screen on check-in. More often than not, you’ll find it quite expensive for a one-way upgrade.  A crowded airport can suddenly change people’s value of a better seat!  It’s even not too late to ask on board.  Some airlines will allow passengers to upgrade for a fee right as they board the plane with the credit card terminal in hand.  Others are not equipped to do this at all, and do not permit it.  It can even vary by aircraft type. 

Does Business Class always include Lounge Access?

Typically, where a business class is offered by a network airline, lounge access is included.  That is, if there is a lounge for that airline or one of its partner airlines.  Three large airline alliances share lounges:  Star Alliance that Air Canada, United, Lufthansa, LOT, Austrian and more are part of, SkyTeam that Delta, KLM, Air France, and others are part of, and One World, comprised of American and Cathay.  WestJet is code sharing with many airlines including Delta but is not formally part of SkyTeam.  

Many “end point” destinations such as in the Caribbean, Mexico, smaller airports in the US and Europe do not have airline specific lounges other than perhaps the “home airline”.  For example, in Halifax there is a Maple Leaf Lounge for Air Canada, but you will not find any specific airline lounge in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  As such, complimentary airline lounge access is not included for free and may not even be offered for a fee.  It varies.  There are networks of private lounges in airports worldwide, including Plaza Premium in Canada.  Priority Pass is a network offered through some premium credit cards as a perk that will give a limited number of free entries into lounges worldwide.  If you like to travel in Business or Premium Economy and will be taking a few trips a year to smaller destinations, it’s worth looking at credit cards that include Priority Pass.

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